07/06/2010 10:52 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Pulping the Planet: just like palm oil, paper threatens Indonesia's rainforests too

Even though we've had huge success in turning companies like Unilever, Nestle and Kraft off palm oil produced by Sinar Mas--the notorious company linked to forest destruction--that only represents one part of the jigsaw puzzle and Sinar Mas is still chewing its way through Indonesia's rainforests.

Palm oil is one of two plantation products that are driving deforestation in Indonesia, paper being the other. Sinar Mas is a major player in the paper business, and we've compiled new evidence that shows exactly how its pulp and paper operations are threatening the forests just as much as its palm oil business is.

The latest Greenpeace investigation shows the links between Sinar Mas and deforestation is Pulping the Planet, and as the title suggests it focuses on the paper side of the story. Extensive research, documentation and on-the-ground work reveals that one arm of the hydra-like Sinar Mas group - Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) - is supplying paper to big name companies like Tesco, Burger King, KFC and Hewlett Packard.

As we published our investigation and the day unfolded, a team of Greenpeace activists in China took action against supermarket chain Auchan to highlight their links to APP.

Yet despite repeated promises that it is pursuing a "path toward sustainability" and that it would only use plantation trees for its pulp by 2009, APP is still using rainforest timber to feed two of its paper mills in Sumatra. Sinar Mas has large areas of intact rainforest under concession waiting to be cleared for acacia plantations, including areas around Bukit Tigapuluh National Park which is a vitally important habitat for the highly endangered Sumatran tiger, as well as being one of the only sites where equally threatened orang-utans are reintroduced to the wild.

Some of this land also includes rich peatlands, which release huge amounts of greenhouse gases when they're drained and burnt - one reason why Indonesia is the third largest emitter in the world. Incidentally, it's illegal to clear peat which is deeper than three metres, but Sinar Mas has a track record of ignoring that particular regulation.

As a result of our earlier work, which has been summed up on last week's Economist magazine, many companies have already put clear blue water between themselves and various parts of the Sinar Mas group:

--Unilever, Nestle and Kraft have all suspended their dealings with the palm oil side of the company;

--Kimberly Clark, Kraft, Nestle and Unilever are all in the process of implementing global paper policies that will rule out suppliers from APP, unless substantial changes are made by the company and its suppliers;

--And only yesterday, Carrefour confirmed that it has already stopped buying from APP for its own brands and Tesco has announced that it will do the same by the end of the year.
APP is on the march with similar expansion plans elsewhere and a shiny new greenwash advertising campaign to persuade us it really does care about trees, including a number of spots seen on CNN.

To stop all this madness, two things need to happen. Other companies with Sinar Mas or APP contracts must drop them and no doubt we'll be asking for your assistance when it becomes clear who the more stubborn ones are.

Second, the freeze on new deforestation licenses recently promised by Indonesia's President needs to be extended to cover existing concessions that are currently slated for destruction by Sinar Mas and other companies. Only with such a blanket halt on deforestation can the problems facing Indonesia's rainforests really be tackled.